What would be the best turntable under $500? With such a budget in mind, can you get a deal on a great turntable? Find out in our comprehensive guide!
- Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable
- Sony PS-LX310BT Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable
- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable with Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge
- 1byone Wireless Turntable HiFi System with 36-Watt Bookshelf Speakers
- Fluance RT81 Elite High-Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
- U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable with a Built-in Preamp
- REGA Planar 1
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Which Turntable Is Your Best Choice Under $500?
Many audiophiles believe that only old patinated turntables can give you the sound you’re looking for when you buy a vinyl record.
Granted, there’s a variety of vintage record players with the right looks and a decent sound. But there’s nothing better than buying a new model made from high-end materials like vinyl and carbon, or a set of upgrades that are too good to miss out on.
As they often come with a hefty price tag, we’ve decided to list some of the best choices with a ceiling of $500 in mind. We’ve reviewed seven models that offer a wide range of equipment to help you find the best turntable under $500.
Top 7 Turntables Under $500 In Review
1. Best Choice: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable
A well-known brand in the music industry, Audio-Technica is dedicated to creating both professional and home music equipment.
They offer some of the best turntables under $500 that are easy-to-use while allowing music enthusiasts to enjoy their LP to the fullest.
This model is an update of the AT-LP120-USB model that comes with upgrades like a servo direct motor and preamplifier. Also, it has a fully functional turntable that can play a variety of formats. This comes especially in handy if you’re a collector of old records.
One of the new additions is the ability to record audio and convert it to a digital format so that you can listen to your favorite songs even when you’re not at home.
- Direct drive
- DC Servo motor
- Minimized vibration
- Ability to turn vinyl into digital format
- Audio-Technica head shell
- Balanced S-shape tonearm
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Key Points:
Every next-generation turntable brings something new to the table. With a 3-speed and fully manual operation, this AT record player combines the past with the present. Its stylus cartridge is compatible with any VM95 stylus, giving you various options to choose from.
Plus, it comes with a wide range of connectivity outputs like USB, RCA cable (dual male to dual male), AC adapter, and 45 RPM adapter.
Inexperienced users have reported problems with the turntable setup instructions and manual as they didn’t provide them with enough information.
Another downside of this model is the inability to automatically reset the arm that’s usually done with a single button.
What We Like
- 3-speed manual operation
- Compatible stylus cartridge
- Connectivity outputs
- Works with different
What We Don’t Like
- Confusing setup documentation
- Doesn’t have an automatic reset of the arm
2. Best Value: Sony PS-LX310BT Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable
Sony PS-LX310BT Fully Automatic Belt Drive Turntable
Sony PS-LX310BT Overview
The brand Sony that’s known for its technological advancements. That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that this turntable can wirelessly connect with other devices.
The first thing you notice about a user-friendly turntable is how easy it is to assemble and start using it. Sony is among the best user-friendly turntables under $500 with an auto-start. Also, it offers two speeds with a 45RPM adaptor cleverly hidden under the deck.
It has a built-in preamp that gives all audiophiles a chance to connect it to wireless speakers, headphones, or other Bluetooth enabled devices.
With a sturdy platter and a tonearm with enhanced sensitivity, sound quality will be of a high level. This Sony turntable has a unique option to rip your vinyl and create digital MP3 files so that you can have your favorite LPs with you.
More than anything, it’s a great record player for record collecting novices that need a reliable device to start their journey.
- Built-in phono output
- Includes one-step autostart
- USB ripping to MP3 file
- Wireless connection to Bluetooth devices
- Aluminum platter and tonearm
- Includes a removable dust cover
Sony PS-LX310BT Turntable Key Points:
For some users, ease of use is one of the most critical features of any turntable on the market. This Sony model is simple and equipped to provide the best audio experience.
With a simple start, stop, and up/down buttons, you’ll be able to get the music flowing in one click.
Using Bluetooth technology, it can connect to various devices like speakers, soundbars, or headphones. Plus, it allows you to use two different speeds and place your vinyl records on an aluminum platter that ensures stability.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a low signal that cuts the song every few seconds. Bluetooth on this turntable sometimes encounters problems when connecting with other devices, and reporting users found this quite stressful.
What We Like
- Easy to set up and use
- Wireless technology
- Offers two speeds, 33 1/3 and 45 RPM
- Aluminum platter
What We Don’t Like
- Troublesome Bluetooth signal
3. Premium Pick: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable with Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Overview
With over thirty years’ experience, Pro-Ject turntables are among the best analog record players on the market. That’s why one of their latest models, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, has complete justification in calling itself the best new turntable under $500.
One of the most robust features of this turntable model is the use of carbon in the tonearm. Carbon is great for increasing overall stiffness, thus increasing stability.
When combined with a heavy platter that rotates with increased strength, the sound becomes incredibly soft.
There won’t be any vibrations on this device as the belt drive works in a low noise mode as it uses an AC motor.
What’s more, the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge ensures that you’ll hear every note and get a complete audio experience.
- Carbon tonearm
- Big and heavy platter
- Precision belt drive
- Sorbothane motor suspension
- Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
Debut Carbon DC Key Points:
To make the platter more stable, Debut has used a bigger model made from 300mm thick metal.
That, combined with a piano black finish and carbon tonearm, give this record player a futuristic look. It’s dark yet striking, so much so, it’s a stylish piece of furniture in its own right.
If there’s one thing many collectors wish their record players had, it’s the automatic return option. If you leave the room for whatever reason, this option will return the tonearm, so you don’t have to worry about it too much.
But when you decide to go for an old-fashioned turntable, this is one of its slightly irritable downsides.
What We Like
- Futuristic design
- Great stability features
- 6” low-mass carbon tonearm
What We Don’t Like
- Lacks auto-return option
4. 1byone Wireless Turntable HiFi System with 36-Watt Bookshelf Speakers
1byone Wireless Turntable HiFi System Bookshelf Speakers
1byone Wireless Turntable HiFi System Overview
The1byone company creates products that combine the latest technology and design in the music industry. With their Wireless Turntable Hi-Fi system, your high-fidelity playback will sound better than ever.
However, what truly makes this the best turntable system under $500 are two speakers that transform it into a complete music system.
For anyone looking for a music system of both speakers and record player, 1 by One offers the best deal around.
At the same time, this is the only system of its kind that deserves to be among the great turntables under $500. The turntable comes in a beautiful retro wooden box that can complement any space and two speakers that are simple in design.
It has a moving magnet cartridge with a built-in amplifier that works as a stabilizer for your audio and a new belt-drive system.
With adjustable counterweight and anti-skating tools, the turntable won’t make any scratches on your vinyl.
Plus, your stylus will always sit perfectly in the record’s groove and create a clean sound without any distortions. Should you want to connect your turntable to more speakers, you can do so thanks to a built-in switchable preamplifier and a phono line.
- Moving magnet cartridge
- Adjustable counterweight
- Variable anti-skating
- AUX out and RCA outputs
- A variety of connectivity ports
1byone Turntable System with Speakers Key Points:
The first thing you’ll notice about this turntable is that it has a simple yet very captivating design that combines wood and iron.
Once you turn it on, you’ll hear a noticeably different sound, thanks to an adjustable counterweight cartridge that allows the stylus to get into every ridge and reproduce impressive hi-fi tones.
What makes it even better is the Bluetooth pairing option. This way, you can connect your smartphone with the two speakers and listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
There’s a lot of automation with new turntable models. That’s why models that favor a manual approach can take some time to get used to it.
The 1byOne record player uses a belt drive and doesn’t have an automated arm. This requires users to be extremely careful – if too much pressure is applied to the stylus, it will break.
Another problem you might encounter is short cables that connect the turntable to its speakers. For everyone who wants to separate speakers on a higher shelf, an additional line will be necessary.
What We Like
- User-friendly design
- Easy to set up
- Two speakers
- Superb sound quality
- Bluetooth connectivity options
What We Don’t Like
- Manual arm
- Speakers have a short wire
5. Fluance RT81 Elite High-Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
Fluance RT81 Elite Turntable Overview
If there’s a brand that has revolutionized home audio, we can say with confidence that it’s Fluance.
Using premium quality components, this Canadian brand enhances the lifestyle of every music enthusiast. And it doesn’t come as a surprise that its products are among the best audiophile turntables under $500.
Built from premium quality components, the RT81 turntable creates an unparalleled sound quality. It uses an Audio Technica elliptical stylus and an aluminum S-Type arm that tracks all the grooves with immense precision.
What’s more, the turntable’s construction only enhances the listening experience as it’s built from a solid wood and aluminum platter. The solid wood makes the turntable stable and vibration-free, thus helping it produce an authentic sound.
- Pure analog experience
- High-performance cartridge
- S-type tonearm
- Modern design with wood and aluminum
- Gold plated RCA line outputs
- Warm and true sound
Fluance RT81 Elite Key Points:
The Fluance RT81 is among the best new turntables under $500 because it combines sturdy build materials and high-quality equipment for the best sound reproduction.
It plays LPs and EPs equally well. The S-Type tonearm with an anti-skating system will gently get to every grove without damaging even the most sensitive vinyl records in your collection.
While the turntable is playing, the turning speed is not as stable as it should be. If you’re using the turntable for less than an hour every day, you can’t notice it.
However, once you start using it more frequently, you’ll sometimes see that the speed is either slower or higher than it should be.
Another issue with this turntable is the position of RPM. As it’s located on the bottom, it’s always hard to reach it, especially if you’re unsure where to look.
What We Like
- Strong build
- High-quality sound equipment
- Suitable for 33 1/3 and 45 RMP records
- S-type tonearm
- Anti-skating system that protects the vinyl
What We Don’t Like
- Unstable rotation speed
- RPM adjustment is hard to reach
6. U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable with a Built-in Preamp
U-Turn Audio – Orbit Plus Turntable with built-in preamp
U-Turn Orbit Plus Turntable Overview
The U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus is a US-made turntable that three die-hard music enthusiasts created for everyone who likes a good-looking record player paired with superior performance.
The Orbit Plus made by U-Turn Audio is a modern-looking record player with a rightful place in the great turntables under $500. With a sleek acrylic platter connected to the belt system, your records will be stable and vibration-free.
Since every turntable is assembled manually, its quality is on the highest level. The OA2 gimbal system allows the stylus to move freely while getting into every groove and eliminating distortion.
The adjustable counterweight provides an excellent balance to the tonearm so that the stylus can capture every detail.
The built-in Pluto Phono Preamp simplifies the connection between then turntable speakers, allowing you to connect various sound systems.
- Two-speed belt drive system
- High-performance turntable
- Well-engineered tonearm
- Ortofon OM5E cartridge
- Acrylic platter
- Built-in preamp
- 3-year warranty
U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Key Points:
One of the best things about the Orbit Plus is that you’re getting the best value for your money. One of its most impressive features is an adjustable modern tonearm that looks stylish and provides rich sound.
The belt, motor, and cartridge are so smooth that you won’t feel any vibrations while listening to your favorite collectibles. Plus, you’ll want to show this turntable and enjoy looking at it even if there’s no record on it.
A frequent problem that belt-driven turntables have is a loose belt. Since it’s the most vital component to secure the platter’s constant speed, it can be quite frustrating having to change it more often than necessary.
Some users also report that the motor becomes a bit noisier when switching the turntable on and off.
What We Like
- Good value for the price
- Great design
- Stable acrylic platter
- Reliable tonearm and cartridge
- Silent vibrationless motor
What We Don’t Like
- Loose belt
7. REGA Planar 1
Rega Planar 1 Turntable
REGA Planar 1 Overview
The REGA Planar 1 is a meticulously designed British-made turntable. It’s among other $500 turntables that strikes a perfect balance between great looks and functionality.
The Planar 1 made by UK-based Rega, is a high-end record player that works impeccably. It combines the simplicity and user-friendly approach ideal for inexperienced record collectors.
One of its stellar enhancements is definitely the RB110 tonearm that ensures that you can fully appreciate every LP you put on it.
A stiff phenolic platter guarantees that your vinyl is rotating steadily while the tonearm is working its magic. With a luxurious plinth finish in black and white, there’s no doubt that you’re looking at one of the best modern-looking turntables.
- RB 110 tonearm
- Synchronous motor that reduces vibration
- Carbon Phono cartridge
- 24 V motor
- Phenolic platter with a new flywheel
- Luxurious plinth finish
Planar 1 Turntable Key Points:
The Rega 1 comes with a carbon cartridge that’s fitted as standard. It’s among the first Rega entry-level record players that include a 24V synchronous AC motor with a lot more stability while creating less noise and vibrations.
It offers superb sound quality that puts it in the best record player under $500 category.
Turntables with belt-drives are not the best choice for novices. Not only are they more sensitive, but the motor and belt could also be a distraction rather than complement the sound audiophiles love so much.
The Planar 1 has a somewhat noisy motor, and a fair amount of reviewing owners find it hard to get used to.
What We Like
- High-quality cartridge and tonearm
- Vibration-free motor
- High sound precision and quality
What We Don’t Like
- Noisy motor
Buyer’s Guide for Great Turntables Under $500
There’s a variety of turntables on the market nowadays. Before you decide on the system you want to have, you’ll need to figure out how much space the turntable can occupy.
Since you can find models that come with two large speakers and without them, we suggest deciding on where the record player will stand to ensure you have enough space between the speakers to have it in a stable position.
Belt Drive vs. Direct Drive
Every belt drive turntable has a motor that turns the platter by moving the belt around it. This is the oldest and most straightforward way to play a record.
The motor has to be on the side to produce minimal vibration and minimal noise. For true audiophiles, this system is the first choice as it creates a specific sound.
On the other hand, direct-drive provides you with better and more consistent speed as it is located directly on the motor’s shaft. Better speed creates a more accurate sound, and to make that kind of stability, direct-drive models have to be quite heavy and sturdy.
They’re also more dependable and get up to speed in a matter of seconds. Also, they allow users to adjust the playback speed and enjoy different vinyl formats.
Manual vs. Automatic Operation
Any record player with a manual operation will be more suitable to a user with prior knowledge or experience. Before playing a record, you’ll need to adequately place the tonearm on the record and remove it afterward without scratching the vinyl.
Most audiophiles insist on using the manual system since they know how to use it and enjoy the lovely sound it produces.
Automatic operation record players do all the sensitive work for you. The tonearm automatically moves the edge of the record returning it to its place. If you’re just started collecting vinyl records, this would be the best choice for your first record player.
Once you’re acquainted with the process, you’ll be able to use the manual operation turntable with more confidence.
Modern turntables often have a USB port that enables you to record your records’ sound onto MP3 files. You can also use a cable to connect the turntable to the computer, and in some cases, there’s an app or a detailed guide to make your job easier.
Some turntables come together with a set of speakers that usually have a Bluetooth connector. That way, you can play music from your phone or computer and use them as external speakers. It’s a useful feature, especially if you don’t have a lot of space and need an all-in-one type of solution.
Every cartridge is located on the top of the turntable arm. It mainly controls the precision of the tonearm and its delicate movements. The stylus and cartridge affect the sound of your record more than any other element.
If you’re an avid listener, it’s best to change your cartridge as soon as you hear higher noise levels. One of the best brands for cartridges is Audio Technica. Their diamond-shaped product is one of the best on the market as it’s durable and has excellent tracing qualities.
Generally speaking, most turntable cartridges should be replaced after 700 hours of music as they get worn out and start scratching the vinyl.
Internal or External Preamp
While most turntables come with a preamp built-in, many of them have to align with your audio system. Should your receiver doesn’t have a phono input, you’ll have two options: buy a new one or get an external preamp.
Either way, it’s an important feature that you have to keep in mind when choosing the best turntable under $500.
Answers to FAQs
Is it Better to Get a Direct-Drive or Belt-Drive Turntable?
Direct drives are a workable solution if you’re a DJ or interested in experimenting with music and various sound effects you can create using a turntable. Turntables with this type of drive are more dependable and quicker than belt-drive tables.
Every audiophile would rather have a belt-drive turntable as it produces better sound quality, and that’s why most music connoisseurs favor it a lot more than direct-drive.
Integrated Turntable or a Built-In Preamp?
While many turntables already have a preamp built-in, some require you to purchase an external one for them to work with a computer, more advanced sound systems, or speakers.
Usually, turntables with a USB output come with a preamp. However, many high-end turntables come with the latest equipment and features but without a preamp. Both options produce excellent sound, and this decision is entirely up to users to decide which model they prefer.
Can a Worn Stylus Scratch Vinyl Records?
Yes, they can both scratch and even cause irreparable damage to your vinyl records. That’s why it’s extremely important you have some method or a kit to clean your records and the stylus.
If you notice that your stylus is damaged or deformed, you should immediately change it or stop playing records until you get a new one.
How Often Should You Change Your Stylus?
All this depends on the age of your needle and cartridge, as well as how often you play records. If you’re a heavy user, you should change your stylus twice a year.
On the other hand, if you’re using it once in a while, it will be more than enough to change it once a year. All of this will depend on whether you have an old or new turntable and your records’ overall state.
Old and dirty records can significantly influence the needle’s longevity, and that’s why it’s essential to clean your records and stylus regularly.
In Summary, What’s the Best Turntable For $500 or Less?
After carefully reviewing all of the turntable models, we find that Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK is definitely the best choice if you’re looking for the best turntable under $500.
Even if the competition is tough, the balanced combination of its features helps it outshine other record players.
Every model we’ve reviewed offers something unique. For those on a budget, our favorite pick is the Sony PS-LX310BT Turntable for its ease of use and simplicity.
Should you want to get a record player that looks and feels futuristic, either the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC, or the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus will be the best choice. It’s undoubtedly among the best models you can buy with a $500 budget that will be a worthwhile long-term investment.
Final Turntable Comparison
- Overall Ease of Use
- Overall Build Quality
- Overall Sound Quality
- Overall Value Factor